My belief is that leaders can lose their voice even when they are healthy and their vocal cords are functioning just fine. I can speak, but if no one really listens I have no voice; I can lead meetings, but if I have no influence I have no voice; I can meet and greet people all day long, but if no one really cares I have no voice. What can those in leadership roles do to keep from losing their metaphorical voice? Here are a few thoughts:
- give the voice rest...just as I had to stop talking to get back my physical voice, leaders at times need to stop talking and spend more time both listening and in quiet contemplation.
- talk less, smile more (with apologies to the musical Hamilton)...sometimes presence is as important (or even more important) than one's physical voice being heard. Letting others know that you are there and being a part of the event is just as important as speaking at the event.
- choose words carefully...more talking does not always equal a stronger voice. Stay on target, be careful with words, and be succinct. Many times less really is more.
- keep the voice at a lower level...when trying to make a point, those in leadership roles can often get excited and perhaps even agitated. The louder and more aggressive the voice, the less people might actually listen.
- stay away from large crowds...smaller meetings take more time, but the ability to craft one's message for an individual can go along way in making one's voice really heard.
- let others speak...leaders often believe that they are the ones who deliver the message best; the truth is that there are many people in the organization who can say things better and more to the point. Give them the chance to practice their own voice and others the chance to here a new voice.
My greatest fear was realized as I considered what might happen if my physical voice never fully came back. I realized that my voice was the tool by which I do my work. That is true for the leader's metaphorical voice as well. Perhaps the fear of losing that voice should be greater than the fear of losing one's physical voice.
This past week I have talked much less, avoided large crowds, talked only in a softer voice, drank plenty of tea and honey, and regularly used salt and warm water to heal the throat. I am not yet a 100% but am now able to hold a conversation without much pain. I have learned my lesson to take better care of my voice...and I have learned to care for my metaphorical voice as well. Let's hope that lesson serves me well for years to come.